In what’s been the weakest crop of movies at the midway point since I started writing reviews 5 years ago, 2019 hasn’t graced us with many great films, but it sure has delivered more than a few truly unforgettable moments. Here are the ones that caught my eye the most.
10.) Someone Great – The Hair of the Dog
The film probably won’t make my top 50 for the year, but this tribal dance between two friends battling the effects of last night’s drinks is among my favorites. It’s simple yet effective. Someone Great might be pedestrian, but I can imagine that countless young women have recreated this moment on any given Saturday morning. It’s like the adult version of the old One Saturday Morning cartoon intro, just with fewer inhibitions, less clothing, and zero fucks given.
9.) Rocketman – The Lyrics Come to Life
For a extravagant film that succeeds by showing little discretion, Rocketman moved me most when it tapped into the inexplicable musical genius of Elton John. Elton is on record saying that he doesn’t know where the music comes from; the harmonies and melodies are born from his fingers and happen to be accompanied by a unique voice. And while the film has many scenes worth highlighting, the most memorable one is this clip, likely because it’s the most grounded.
8.) Paddleton – The Dummies’ Guide to Losing
Ray Romano stars as Andy, a middle-aged man without much of a life outside his best friend and neighbor Michael (Mark Duplass). Michael gets terminal cancer, opts to forgo treatment in favor of ending his life on his own terms, and Andy is forced to accept the fact that things will change and that not all wars can be won. He’s a nervous, rambling chatterbox for most of the film, and in this scene Romano gives a clear-eyed, stirring speech that acts as an emotionally effective capitulation to support his only friend, even if that means losing him in the process.
7.) Teen Spirit – The Audition
Shot like a music video for rightful reason, this clip pulled straight from the woefully underseen gem Teen Spirit highlights the endless talents of Elle Fanning, giving the best performance of her promising career thus far in a stellar directorial debut from Max Minghella. There’s something raw, deeply felt, and electric about the entire film, all of which I get every time I think of this moment.
6.) Isn’t It Romantic – The Dance-Off
Fun, colorful, and delightfully inspired by those unbelievable scenes from the 80’s-90’s where everybody broke out into a kind of flash mob dance routine, the subversive Isn’t It Romantic gives a few head nods to the rom-coms that came before it. The editing here is on point, the performances (especially Rebel Wilson) are energetic, and the whole thing is just the right amount of exaggerated without feeling overblown.
5.) Her Smell – The Ode
In another stunning turn from the formidable talent of Elisabeth Moss, Her Smell uses one long take bookended by the main character’s future and her past looking on from the corner of the room to emphasize where the leading lady is in regards to her mind, body and spirit. The singing isn’t perfect, nor is it meant to be, and those vulnerable cracks and quakes in Moss’ voice give authenticity to a woman finding Heaven in the spaces she once seemed to think of as Hell.
4.) Climax – The Island of Misfit Toys
Shortly after we’re introduced to the main players via grainy interview footage, featuring the mixed band of outsiders explaining what dance means to them individually, Gaspar Noe’s Climax transitions to this unbroken 5 minute dance routine intentionally set against the backdrop of a draped French flag. We can gauge their unique personalities, styles, and who these people are through movement alone, and it’s a mesmerizing setup for a film that accelerates without tapping or pumping the brakes. Gaspar Noe is no friend of subtlety, and Climax is no exception.
3.) Us – The Shadow Dance
Multiple moments standout in Jordan Peele’s brilliant sophomore effort. The heavy foreshadowing at the beach, the initial invasion, and the fight in the neighbor’s glass castle. But what Peele achieved in the film’s pivotal fight or flight sequence – the editing, sound mixing, original score, cinematography, and Lupita N’Yongo’s fascinating turn are all worthy of Oscar nominations – is nothing short of slam poetry via calculated, kinetic motion. Sometimes films can say the most when the lips say nothing at all.
2.) Booksmart – The Baptism by Fire
Besides being raunchy and funny and familiar yet new, Booksmart also packs one of the most powerful scenes of the year. Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) is comfortably out but has never been with another girl, and here she follows the cues of her crush to undress and hop in a pool at her very first high school party. In a mere 2 minutes, Amy goes from eager to lost to heartbroken, all backed by the poignant lyrics of Perfume Genius’ “Slip Away.” She’s vulnerable navigating beneath the surface, as are we. And like the film itself, there’s more going on here than meets the eye, which might be the best way to encapsulate the nuanced beauty of Booksmart.
1.) Avengers: Endgame – The Assembly
I know, I know. It’s what you might have expected. But honestly, I haven’t experienced a similar reaction to a single scene in a film since Avengers: Infinity War. That one was a hushed silence lightly brushed by “WTF?” sentiment. While others came close many times throughout Endgame, no moment meant more than when Captain America wielded Thor’s hammer Mjölnir before one last epic battle. I say this without an ounce of hyperbole: I’ve literally never heard a theater erupt into such thunderous applause and cheers before in my life. It was epic, invigorating, and above all else completely earned. It took a marathon to get to Endgame, and somehow the film managed to post a PR time in Marvel’s final mile. I’ve only experienced a true runner’s high once before; this movie, and in particular this moment, courses the same feeling through your veins.